The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

April 8, 2013

Joplin Crusaders 'almost flawless' in win over Kansas

COMMMERCE, Okla. — Joplin Crusader head coach Dave Pitts said the team turned in an “almost flawless performance” in the first half in beating the Kansas Cougars 37-25 in the non-pro Central Football League on Saturday night.

The visiting Crusaders, improving to 3-0 in the CFL, led 31-7 at the half in the game at Maize High School.

Joplin, in its first home outing, entertains the Enid (Okla.) Enforcers at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Fred G. Hughes Stadium at Missouri Southern State University.

The Cougars fell to 1-1. Enid, defending postseason CFL champion at the expense of the Crusaders, improved to 2-0 by beating the Oklahoma Warriors 44-6.

Said Pitts: “We played lights out defensively in that first half. (Matt) Thompson was great at quarterback. It almost was a flawless performance in the first half.

“Our ends and linebackers gave us outstanding defensive efforts,” Pitts said.

“We started the second half strong, too,” Pitts said. “But penalties were a big problem in the second half.”

Echoed offensive coordinator Brenden Gubera: “We didn’t play that well in the second half. Our statistics fell off. We had several penalties. We didn’t find a rhythm on offense.

“The Cougars, after we scored first in the second half on Danny Knighten’s 80-yard kickoff return (for a 37-7 lead), scored a touchdown in the third quarter and two more in the fourth.

“But, again, we played extremely well in that first half,” Gubera said. “I was told it was one of our best offensive halves in several years. We had 264 total yards. We played with a good tempo. We were quickly snapping the ball. It was fun to watch.”

Joplin took a 7-0 lead in the first period on Kenny Ray Session Jr.’s 32-yard run and Jason Bromley’s conversion kick.

Knighten snagged a 28-yard scoring pass from Thompson to start a big second quarter for Joplin, Bromley kicked the extra point and then kicked a 40-yard field goal to make it 17-0.

Thompson and Matt Rice hooked up for a 5-yard pass to make it 23-0. Bromley added the extra point.

The Cougars broke up the shutout for a 24-7 count before Joplin retaliated with an 80-yard march in the final 1 1/2 minutes capped by Thompson’s 6-yard pass to Cody Mayfield with six seconds left. Bromley made it 31-7.

“Thompson (who was 12 of 18 for 236 yards) is doing a nice job running the offense,” Gubera said. “It was his second strong game in a row.”

Knighten had six receptions for 121 yards and fellow wide receiver Rice five for 78.

Session, out of Tulsa East Central, rushed for 121 yards on 18 carries, and Heath Baker added 66 yards on 10 carries.

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